Page images

The Geraldines . § o “o 2

The O’Neills to e { } l

Lord Mountjoy, from Fynes Moryson’s “History of

ICngland from I 599 to 1603 * C O

4 I I-430

43 I-435


44. I-445



RELAND under Elizabeth and James will be found in this volume not only described in words of contemporaries, but in great measure accounted for by them. A reader chiefly interested in the sequence and significance of those events in history which best illustrate the relations between England and Ireland down to the time of the Plantation of Ulster, might find it convenient not to begin with Spenser's View of the State of Ireland. Taking first, from the end of this collection, Fynes Moryson's Description of the country and the people as they were regarded by the English gentlemen who went to Ireland and served the Lord Deputy, in the last years of Elizabeth's reign, the reader would obtain in small compass a matter-of-fact view of the state of Ireland as then seen with English eyes. Spenser, long resident in Ireland, was a sage and serious poet, who, when he wrote on the condition of the country, sought, in his own way, to get at the heart of a great question. Sir John Davies, poet also, was a lawyer and a statesman, for whom the present grew out of the past, and who sought light from experience of the past for action in the present. Fynes Moryson was a gentleman who remembered the built pastry and the daintinesses of a polite English table, who resented ill-cooked meat, did not regard bad butter as a trifle, chronicled ill-swept lodgings, dirty beds, was one of those for whom especially soap and starch were carried to the field of battle, and delights to tell how the poor Irish, having captured such a store, mistook

the Soap and starch for delicacies of the dinner-table, fell to them greedily, and cursed English daintiness between the teeth in which the Soap was sticking. Spenser does not report for us this chatter of the day. He tells that he saw at Limerick, when Murrough O'Brian was executed there, how “an old woman, which was his fostermother, took up his head whilst he was quartered, and sucked up all the blood running thereout, saying that the earth was not worthy to drink it, and therewith also steeped her face and breast, and tore her hair, crying and shrieking out most terribly.” He tells what he saw of the starvation of the Irish “in those late wars in Munster,” so that “any stony heart would have rued the same. Out of every corner of the wood and glens they came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs could not bear them ; they looked anatomies of death, they spake like ghosts crying out of their graves; they did eat of the carrions, happy when they could find them, yea, and one another soon after, insomuch as the very carcasses they spared not to scrape out of their graves; and if they found a plot of watercresses or shamrocks, there they flocked as to a feast for the time, yet not able long to continue therewithal; that in short space there were none almost left, and a most populous and plentiful country suddenly left void of man or beast.” But the eye for small things, the ear for gossip in the English camp, which, near truth or far from it, was still the gossip of the hour, the troubled soul's desire for a clean sheet of nights, help to bring home to us a clearer knowledge of the time. The long sleeve of the Irishwoman's smock suggests to Spenser the fashion of the manche in Armoury, and sleeves of ladies worn by knights of old upon their arms; and on the uses of the Irish mantle Spenser has a memorable passage; but he does not tell like Fynes Moryson how in a poor house of clay, where there are no “feather beds or sheets,” Irish and English-Irish “make a fire in the midst of the

room, and round about it they sleep upon the ground, without straw or other thing under them, lying all in a circle about the fire with their feet towards it. And their bodies being naked, they cover their heads and upper parts with their mantles, which they first make very wet, steeping them in water of purpose, for they find that when their bodies have once warmed the wet mantles, the smoke of them keeps their bodies in temperate heat all the night following.” Having crossed with Fynes Moryson into Ireland near the close of Elizabeth's reign, and read his general description of what he found there, if he wish to take the contents of this volume in historical order, the student might turn next to Sir John Davies, and follow his careful tracing of the causes of confusion from the time of Strongbow till the time of that great conflict at the close of the reign of Elizabeth. Then he might turn from Sir John Davies (on page 330 in this book), when Sir John has finished his political retrospect and is about to tell what was done by King James after the crushing of Tyrone's rebellion. Spenser's “View,” here interpolated, would add breadth and depth to the record of the great struggle under Elizabeth, and join to it a good man's endeavour to Interpret its significance and show the way on to a happier future. Having read Spenser's argument, the student might return to Sir John Davies, where he writes, “Now I am come to the happy reign of my Most Gracious Ilord and Master, King James,” and follow his interpretation of King James's policy, supplemented by his letters. These describe from the scene of action the endeavours to work out a policy of peace in his account of the Visitations of Monaghan, Fermanagh, and Cavan by the Lord Deputy; of the Plantation of Ulster; and in his sketch of the history of Irish Parliaments up to the date of his being chosen Speaker of the Irish House of Commons on the 2nd of May 1613. There ends the story which this volume tells.

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